On May 8 at 6:15 p.m. PT/9:15 p.m. ET, Yahoo Live will live stream Faith No More's concert from the Fillmore in Detroit. Tune in HERE to watch!
One night in 2014, Faith No More drummer Mike “Puffy” Bordin dreamed he was sitting behind his kit playing a kinetic beat that peaked with crashing cymbals and climactic drum rolls. Suddenly, he woke up, set up a video camera and filmed himself playing as much as he could remember of the beat before going back to sleep. The next morning he emailed the video to bassist and producer Bill Gould.
“I thought it was cool, so we met in the studio later that morning and recording just the drums,” Gould tells Yahoo! Music a month before Faith No More’s seventh album, and first in 18 years, Sol Invictus, is scheduled for release. “Puffy played these beats he had in his head, then he went home and I fooled around for a while and came up with all this stuff. I came back the next day to check it out and I realized the song was almost finished. It came together very quickly.”
That wasn’t the case for the rest of the record, which Gould started working on by himself about five years ago, long before the other members of his band -- Bordin, Vocalist Mike Patton, guitarist Jon Hudson and keyboardist Roddy Bottum -- were able to commit themselves to the project. “God knows how many tens of thousands of hours I spent on this s**t” says Gould, who produced the album in his home studio.
Despite the extraordinary amount of time that went into its creation, Sol Invictus sounds spontaneous, impulsive and, at times as schizophrenic as a band recording random ideas on the spot. Like much of Faith No More’s catalog, the disc juxtaposes soul, pop, funk, metal and experimental rock, proving that the musicians haven’t lost any of the ambition, talent or dementia that made them stand out from every other alternative, rock or metal band.
The title Sol Invictus came from the name of the opening track, which starts with marching drums, spare, minor-key piano chords and deep vocals reminiscent of Tom Waits, then builds into a more insistent number with clattering percussion and a widecreen rock rhythm. “Sol Invictus” was a Roman saying that means ‘The Unconquered Sun,’” Gould explains. “It was sort of the slogan of a religion of Sun worshippers, but it was political as well and was printed on coins. It’s kind of a dark song. I think we painted with a lot with dark colors on this album. And there’s this Pagan and Roman idea of the darkness, too. The sun has risen again and you’ve got a fire. In the darkness, there’s still a fire burning. So, I think the album is hopeful, but it’s dark.”
For much of the time Gould was cobbling together demos for Sol Invictus, Faith No More remained strictly a touring band. When it reunited in 2009, after an 11-year hiatus, the thought of a new Faith No More record seemed about as likely as finding a kosher deli kitchen that served a good BLT. Then in late 2011, Gould introduced the new song, “Matador” to the band at rehearsal. The rest of the guys liked the tune so much they agreed to premiere it in late November in Sao Paulo, Brazil at the SWU Festival.
“Playing ‘Matador’ was like everyone getting their feet wet,” Gould says. “After that, it was just a matter of acclimation. People become more and more comfortable with the material we were working on and the songs just stated coming together.”
Gould, Bordin and Hudson workshopped most of the songs on Sol Invictus in the bassist’s home studio. Then Gould emailed the tracks to Bottum and Patton, to work on. “Getting the writing going again was like starting a train,” Gould says. “It started off slow and then gradually gathered momentum. But then the train’s goin’ and that’s it. You’re off.”
Back in 2013, the Faith No More had over 30 songs to work with, which opened the door for arguments and pouting. The band kept the peace by changing the criteria by which it decided what to work on and which to discard. On past albums, keeping a song required a three-fifths majority vote, which led to friction from those who didn’t get their way. For Sol Invictus, everyone had to fully approve of every recorded note. The process took longer than usual, but Faith No More weren’t racing the clock.
“Since there was no label involved, we had only time,” Gould says. “And no one but us knew we were working on new songs. If we didn’t like what we were doing, we could have just stopped and nobody would have been any the wiser. That was a great space to be in. There were no expectations other than our own.”
Moreover, Sol Invictus was a project everyone in Faith No more was excited about and committed to, which made it easier to compromise and navigate around creative walls than it had been in the past. “We made a conscious choice to do this, so why would you make things difficult for yourself when you’re choosing to do something?” Gould says. “In the past, I think we sometimes felt like we were stuck together and that’s when the problems tended to arise.”
Many longtime fans are under the impression the members of Faith No More were huge rock stars that fought constantly and eventually self-destructed. That’s not exactly the case. In reality, it was the mounting pressure to match the success of its commercial 1989 pop-metal album The Real Thing that caused most of the tension. Faith No More wanted experiment with unconventional rhythms, tempos and arrangements – as it did on the groundbreaking 1992 disc Angel Dust -- and the further it strayed from the mainstream the more grief it got from its label.
“We were on this treadmill because we weren’t a really radio-friendly band,” Gould says. “We would have had to tour all the time to make any money. Our name got out there, but we never really had much success in the States outside that ‘Epic’ song. The rest of the time we kept hearing, ‘You guys are not doing this or that, the business is there, you played here, the attendance wasn’t great.’ We always felt like we were under the eight ball. We fought for our survival, but we got really tired. And when you get in a situation like that you, wind up sniping at each other. And that’s not healthy for the longevity of a band.”
In 1998, after releasing the ironically titled Album of the Year, Faith No More broke up. “It didn’t happen all of a sudden,” Gould says. “It was a long, slow process, we just worked too hard for too long and we needed a huge break. We were psychologically exhausted. This group had become something like a penance more than pleasure.”
The band members moved on to other projects. Patton concentrated on his indie label Ipecac, released solo albums and played in numerous bands including Fantomas, Tomahawk, and Peeping Tom. Bottum co-formed the alternative group Imperial Teen and worked on film scores. Hudson went into property management. Bordin played with Ozzy Osbourne live and in the studio with Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell. And Gould kept writing songs.
Periodically, he talked to his band mates about reforming; for a decade Patton resisted. Then in 2007 Bottum invited everyone in the band to his wedding and, although Gould didn’t attend, everyone else was there. “It was probably the first time everybody they saw each other in 10 or 12 years,” he says. “I think that’s when they all started saying, ‘Well, what if?’ because a year later we all decided to reform.”
Faith No More started the Second Coming Tour in Europe and played numerous festivals before taking the show across the U.S. “The reaction we got was surprising, great, fantastic and amazing,” Gould says. “I wouldn’t have expected it, but there was the groundswell of support and still this demand from people to hear us.”
With the release of Sol Invictus, Faith No More is finally in a position where it doesn’t have to win anyone over. Maybe that’s why it sardonically released the quirky, confrontational “Motherf---er” as the album’s first single. The band is preaching to the converted, and thanks to the cultish enclave of old fans and hipsters craving something new and offbeat, Faith No More should be able to remain a successful touring band as long as it enjoys playing shows.
“I think our longevity might have something to do with the fact that, as a band, we have a very strong identity that we couldn’t escape if we wanted to,” Gould says. “And maybe that happened because we’re all have strong personality types that don’t fit in with a lot of other things. After all this time, I just feel like we’re very lucky we found each other.”